Zambia (1): Day One : London to Lusaka and Kapani Lodge
Following an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Lusaka, we landed to the usual friendly welcome from the Zambian Immigration Service (USA please note). We then took an internal flight to Mfuwe Airport (), where we were met by our Norman Carr Safaris guide, Brian, renewing our acquaintance with the African ‘triple handshake’. As is customary we then paid a visit to the celebrated 'Moondog Cafe', to enjoy our first 'Mosi Moment' - with the locally brewed, and very excellent, beer ().
The drive to Kapani Lodge took us on tarmac roads through the town of Mfuwe, which had grown enormously since our previous year’s visit. Then on to Kapani Lodge itself on unmade bush roads. Our first game sighting, en route, was a small herd of elephant enjoying themselves in a lagoon by the side of the road ().
Kapani is situated just outside the National Park, and consists of a number of huts set in front of a dried up lagoon and we enjoy a roast ham lunch on a large deck overlooking the lagoon, watched by numerous baboons and vervet monkeys (). The afternoon is taken up with a welcome siesta, followed up by the traditional tea and cake, and then the evening game drive.
After spotting a number of elephant and hippo, viewed from the bridge over the Luangwa River, on entry into the Park, a lion cub was almost immediately spotted crossing the road ahead (). On following up, and guided by anxious puku and impala alarm calls, we then located the cub again, this time in the company of its mother, drinking from a small stream (). Our guide said that it looked as though the lioness had killed recently, owing to traces of blood that could be seen around her jaws, and indeed a vulture () was noted keeping a watching brief nearby. Further game sightings of giraffe, impala and puku () ensued.
Moving on further into the Park, more elephant were encountered, including three young, together with warthog and zebra. A further giraffe was studied close to, and its accompanying oxpeckers noted (). Our guide explained how each species – giraffe, buffalo, hippo etc - attracts its own slightly different variety of oxpecker, whose primary function (so far as the animal is concerned) is to remove ticks and so on from its hide. Our first sundowners were then enjoyed by the side of the river, watching some fishermen camped on the opposite bank, in the Game Management Area outside the Park, accompanied by the inevitable gathering of raucous hippo. A number of guinea fowl scurried around importantly down by the river’s edge.
During the night drive that followed we spotted a scrub hare, elephant shrew, hyena and genet. Then on the drive back into (and quite near to) camp we saw a hyena skulking along by the actual side of the road – not someone you would want to encounter on an evening stroll outside camp (which is of course why such activities are strictly off limits). Early to bed after a delicious communal meal ().
It isn’t often that the conversation over dinner turns to matters of deep intellectual content. However on one occasion a guest had his button pushed, and spoke eloquently for over an hour and a half on his favourite subject – cheese. In order to try to head off part two of this fascinating saga, the stratagem was adopted of asking each guest to nominate people (current or historical characters, but excluding Nick Hornby) who he would like to invite for dinner. “Oh Christ” exclaimed the cheese freak, and was allowed this as his first choice. Other candidates included (in alphabetical order) the inevitable Winston Churchill, JFK, Nelson Mandela, Joseph Stalin and Margaret Thatcher.
Slightly less obvious choices (in no particular order) included Bill Shankly (this from a lifelong Liverpool FC supporter), Billy Connolly (before he stopped being funny), Lenny Henry (who still is), Pamela Anderson (although for obvious reasons), Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Stanley Kubrick, Paul McCartney, Genghis Khan, Patrick Moore (to explain the stars at night), Tutankhamen, Michelangelo, Salvador Dali, The Dalai Lama, Quentin Tarantino (in order to explain what the gold light in the suitcase was at the end of ‘Pulp Fiction’), and David Livingstone (so that he could be asked whether Zambia had changed much since he journeyed here).
Faced with an imbalance of men over women, Kathy Burke, Nigella Lawson, Reba McEntire and the young Elizabeth Taylor were then added to the list. Possibly the most creative answer was ‘the unknown soldier’, so that he could be asked who he was, and how he died. Back to cheeses of the world.
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